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Epic T/A - Immigration in San Juan - Shambles


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I passed an American friend on the way to CBP in Manhattan restaurant. It took him about one minute to do US citizen immigration in Bliss.

 

When we joined the "foreigners" line, it was already back to O'Sheehans. It took about two hours to get thru immigration. The unfortunates on the lower decks weren't even done by 2pm, and many of them couldn't be bothered to visit Puerto Rica having had their day ruined. This is on one of the two port days, with all aboard at 4:30pm.

 

Is this really how the US wants to treat visitors? Visitors who have paid $14.00 each for the privilege of having their passport stamped, that's about $30,000.........how much has it cost CBP for those five men.....a couple of thousand bucks? Haven't we paid for a much better level of service? Or do they want non-US citizens first view of the USA to be similar to that encountered in a third world country?

 

Is this really how NCL wants to treat its non-US guests? If there are just five or six border guards for maybe two thousand passengers, why not call them say 100 at a time, so instead of queueing for two hours, its maybe five or ten minutes. And have a later (say 10pm) sailaway time so that people being immigrated at 2pm at least get some time in Puerto Rica. And let them know in advance so they can plan for just an afternoon on land.

 

Or maybe just reverse it......have Americans queueing to see just one border guard, and put the rest of them onto foreigners immigration.....how would that feel folks?

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I'm so sorry. I was in the American line, and although it was very long, it went quickly. We had two boarder agents that barely glanced at my passport. I heard it went very, very slow for the crew also, and most of them never got to get off the ship.

 

Honestly I think the problem is that there were four very large ships that arrived in San Juan that morning and too few boarder agents. Not that I'm excusing them, but I don't think it was NCL's fault. Customs and immigration could do with a better process.

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As an American, I can't sympathize with the situation you had, but I can empathize and understand your frustrations. I had several friends complain about how it took them 2 to 2.5 hours to pass through immigration, which is definitely ridiculous. I actually had a friend that missed a volunteer experience, because it took him too long to get off the ship. From what I understand, this is on par for immigration in San Juan. My guess is its understaffing issues with the U.S. Immigration Department, and has a lot less to do with NCL.

 

Could NCL have a better process? Maybe. But you're going to have people lining up regardless of what NCL calls.

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Sorry about your experience. As an American, I can attest to the same experience on a RCI Adventure of the Seas cruise several years ago arriving in San Juan. My husband actually swore off cruises afterwards for many years. The worst part was that they kept us contained in one area of the ship and kept saying it would be just a few minutes for a few hours. Then upon exiting the ship it was still a couple more hours standing in line.

 

Travel can certainly have its up and downsides. We were stuck in LHR for several hours delay coming home a few weeks ago and I felt like a caged animal by the time our 11 hour flight home boarded. by the time I reached home I felt like never leaving again but am already planning my next trip that will take me through LHR.

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I passed an American friend on the way to CBP in Manhattan restaurant. It took him about one minute to do US citizen immigration in Bliss.

 

When we joined the "foreigners" line, it was already back to O'Sheehans. It took about two hours to get thru immigration. The unfortunates on the lower decks weren't even done by 2pm, and many of them couldn't be bothered to visit Puerto Rica having had their day ruined. This is on one of the two port days, with all aboard at 4:30pm.

 

Is this really how the US wants to treat visitors? Visitors who have paid $14.00 each for the privilege of having their passport stamped, that's about $30,000.........how much has it cost CBP for those five men.....a couple of thousand bucks? Haven't we paid for a much better level of service? Or do they want non-US citizens first view of the USA to be similar to that encountered in a third world country?

 

Is this really how NCL wants to treat its non-US guests? If there are just five or six border guards for maybe two thousand passengers, why not call them say 100 at a time, so instead of queueing for two hours, its maybe five or ten minutes. And have a later (say 10pm) sailaway time so that people being immigrated at 2pm at least get some time in Puerto Rica. And let them know in advance so they can plan for just an afternoon on land.

 

Or maybe just reverse it......have Americans queueing to see just one border guard, and put the rest of them onto foreigners immigration.....how would that feel folks?

 

That's interesting because I experienced the same problems from your country's immigration on a TA last April. The difference was British Customs Officials had the opportunity to board the ship in Lisbon since we made that stop before we visited France and then Southampton. That evening, though, we hit a patch of bad weather and rough seas so one of the Customs Officials was unable to perform his duties due to sea sickness leaving only one poor woman to deal with the entire ship by herself. Passengers stood for hours in a queue that stretched from the lounge at the back of the ship all the way around the Guest Services Desk at the center of the ship. As a result we had to have a second day of queuing up with more passengers standing in line for hours. The only difference I see in these two scenarios is that ours stretched out over two days at sea. Is this usually how Great Britain treats its visitors?

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There's a difference between a one off due to sickness, and every time we enter the US. Tampa port, Miami Airport, Detroit Airport.....every time its like two or three hours to get though for the non-Americans, while the US citizens are breezing through. The only exception is Vegas.....they know how important foreign guests are.

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As an American, I can't sympathize with the situation you had, but I can empathize and understand your frustrations. I had several friends complain about how it took them 2 to 2.5 hours to pass through immigration, which is definitely ridiculous. I actually had a friend that missed a volunteer experience, because it took him too long to get off the ship. From what I understand, this is on par for immigration in San Juan. My guess is its understaffing issues with the U.S. Immigration Department, and has a lot less to do with NCL.

 

Could NCL have a better process? Maybe. But you're going to have people lining up regardless of what NCL calls.

 

Sure, CBP understaffing is the issue. But as those people had collectively paid $30,000 for their ESTAs, they are entitled to a decent level of service.

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There's a difference between a one off due to sickness, and every time we enter the US. Tampa port, Miami Airport, Detroit Airport.....every time its like two or three hours to get though for the non-Americans, while the US citizens are breezing through. The only exception is Vegas.....they know how important foreign guests are.

 

That's because it's our money that is paying their salaries.

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There's a difference between a one off due to sickness, and every time we enter the US. Tampa port, Miami Airport, Detroit Airport.....every time its like two or three hours to get though for the non-Americans, while the US citizens are breezing through. The only exception is Vegas.....they know how important foreign guests are.

 

The question still remains...Why were there only TWO officials for an entire ship?

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Sure, CBP understaffing is the issue. But as those people had collectively paid $30,000 for their ESTAs, they are entitled to a decent level of service.

 

I'm sorry you had this experience entering our country; I agree it is not how we should treat visitors. And while "misery loves company" is not the answer, and perhaps you did not see this at the time, but we Americans also suffer from our federal government's underfunding of public services. Not long ago, I stood in line for hours at an airport returning from an international flight, waiting to get through immigration control. (I have since gotten Global Entry.) Same for disembarkation in Florida from a transatlantic cruise a couple of years ago. It didn't matter what nationality you were, everyone was stuck in long lines.

 

Again, that doesn't help you. But it's not just visitors to our country who are victims of our government's dysfunction.

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That's because it's our money that is paying their salaries.

 

No, the point I made earlier was that we pay $14 each, about $30,000 for a couple of thousand non-US on the boat, for the ESTA which should be plenty to pay the salaries of a boatload of CBP officers to put stamps in passport. They did very little else.....usually we get finger prints checked, photos taken and a check against the naughty list, but they had no computers to help them in keeping America safe.

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Hello all.

I'm an European Union citizen sailing from Miami next May.

Me, wife and daughter are under the Visa Waiver Program.

Do you think we might get those 2-3 hours when we arrive in Miami airport or after our Eastern Caribbean cruide in Miami port to go through Customs/Immigration?

We are very excited with this cruise but there is still time to search another one if we are supposed to get stuck all that time just for Immigration.

 

Thank you for your time.

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No, the point I made earlier was that we pay $14 each, about $30,000 for a couple of thousand non-US on the boat, for the ESTA which should be plenty to pay the salaries of a boatload of CBP officers to put stamps in passport. They did very little else.....usually we get finger prints checked, photos taken and a check against the naughty list, but they had no computers to help them in keeping America safe.

 

While I agree about the long wait etc it is not the actual immigration officers you pay the $14 ESTA for but this amount goes towards the cost of maintaining the database and so on to try to identify terrorists and undesirables and stop them even boarding any transport to the US.

Also I don't think Canadians pay for or need an ESTA and there were a lot of Canadians on board in the nonUS line.

I am sure we pay for the immigration fees at the port of entry in the taxes and fees the cruise lines tack on extra if you booking in the US but which are included but hidden in the price you pay if booking in the UK.

 

Also the ESTA fee is $14 is for 2 years and unlimited entries, so you cannot apply it to just one entry.

 

I have applied for Global Entry at airports etc, that was about 40 pounds in UK for security screening then $100 in US for security screening, then a face to face interview in the US, also get TSA Precheck thrown in free, lasts for 5 years, would not have helped on board Epic last week though.

Edited by Griller
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While I agree about the long wait etc it is not the actual immigration officers you pay the $14 ESTA for but this amount goes towards the cost of maintaining the database and so on to try to identify terrorists and undesirables and stop them even boarding any transport to the US.

Also I don't think Canadians pay for or need an ESTA and there were a lot of Canadians on board in the nonUS line.

I am sure we pay for the immigration fees at the port of entry in the taxes and fees the cruise lines tack on extra if you booking in the US but which are included but hidden in the price you pay if booking in the UK.

 

Also the ESTA fee is $14 is for 2 years and unlimited entries, so you cannot apply it to just one entry.

 

I have applied for Global Entry at airports etc, that was about 40 pounds in UK for security screening then $100 in US for security screening, then a face to face interview in the US, also get TSA Precheck thrown in free, lasts for 5 years, would not have helped on board Epic last week though.

 

Hey, Mike...

 

How did you like the Studio Cabin compared to a Single Inside? Of course your deal was a no-brainer, but I would like your opinion on the differences.

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I passed an American friend on the way to CBP in Manhattan restaurant. It took him about one minute to do US citizen immigration in Bliss.

 

When we joined the "foreigners" line, it was already back to O'Sheehans. It took about two hours to get thru immigration. The unfortunates on the lower decks weren't even done by 2pm, and many of them couldn't be bothered to visit Puerto Rica having had their day ruined. This is on one of the two port days, with all aboard at 4:30pm.

 

Is this really how the US wants to treat visitors? Visitors who have paid $14.00 each for the privilege of having their passport stamped, that's about $30,000.........how much has it cost CBP for those five men.....a couple of thousand bucks? Haven't we paid for a much better level of service? Or do they want non-US citizens first view of the USA to be similar to that encountered in a third world country?

 

Is this really how NCL wants to treat its non-US guests? If there are just five or six border guards for maybe two thousand passengers, why not call them say 100 at a time, so instead of queueing for two hours, its maybe five or ten minutes. And have a later (say 10pm) sailaway time so that people being immigrated at 2pm at least get some time in Puerto Rica. And let them know in advance so they can plan for just an afternoon on land.

 

Or maybe just reverse it......have Americans queueing to see just one border guard, and put the rest of them onto foreigners immigration.....how would that feel folks?

 

Too bad. I am glad they are thoroughly checking foreigners.

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There's a difference between a one off due to sickness, and every time we enter the US. Tampa port, Miami Airport, Detroit Airport.....every time its like two or three hours to get though for the non-Americans, while the US citizens are breezing through. The only exception is Vegas.....they know how important foreign guests are.

 

Again - too flippin bad!! Don't come here then. They are doing their job.

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I'm really worried now. We are cruising in feb.

I am from the UK, have done many trips to the USA, so am well aware of the big lines to get into the country.

However will it be like this at every single port?? We clear customs gor america in orlando airport the day before the cruise.

 

Sent from my SM-G925F using Forums mobile app

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I was on this cruise as well. I am Canadian and have to agree - the non-US line was completely insane. My deck had a scheduled time of 10:45am, and I didn't get through until nearly 1pm after having joined the line at 11:30am. By that time, I just got off the ship for half an hour to go to the pharmacy and returned. Thankfully, I had been to San Juan many times before and didn't have anything planned anyway.

 

I could not figure out why they didn't group the Canadians (and perhaps other visa waiver countries) with the Americans. It likely would have sped up the process for everyone!

 

I was on a TA in the spring from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton and they had a few immigration officials join the ship in St Maarten, the last port, for the 8 sea days en route to Southampton. There were scheduled hours each morning where passengers could go through the immigration process, and it was extremely quick and easy. Having said that, I understand it's likely not cost effective to pay 2 immigration agents to sit on a ship for 9 days.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums

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I was on a TA in the spring from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton and they had a few immigration officials join the ship in St Maarten, the last port, for the 8 sea days en route to Southampton. There were scheduled hours each morning where passengers could go through the immigration process, and it was extremely quick and easy. Having said that, I understand it's likely not cost effective to pay 2 immigration agents to sit on a ship for 9 days.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums

 

I would say that it is more cost effective by avoiding a big crush upon disembarkation. No need to have a dozen or so agents on duty to take care of the ship. With the ones onboard the ship arrives, the work is done and the agents got a working vacation.

 

.

Edited by Lido_Deck
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Too bad. I am glad they are thoroughly checking foreigners.

 

They didn't though.

They did very little else.....usually we get finger prints checked, photos taken and a check against the naughty list, but they had no computers to help them in keeping America safe.
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Hey, Mike...

 

How did you like the Studio Cabin compared to a Single Inside? Of course your deal was a no-brainer, but I would like your opinion on the differences.

 

I liked it fine once I got the hang of all the switches and electrics on the 13th day of the 13 day cruise. Its a learning curve.

I did not have a good cabin steward, a very argumentative lady who was unhelpful.

I found you have to be very careful not to nudge the shower soap and shampoo dispensers even very slightly or they fall off the wall and all the soap comes out. The shower is a tight fit for larger person.

The studio I had always seemed damp, but the temperature worked fine on the AC, nothing dried well for some reason.

The bed was large but the mattress pad was in 2 halves and slipped sideways, there was a big zip or hem or something in the middle which made an uncomfortable ridge, other than that all the bedlinens etc were very nice. Towels were great.

I would certainly book a studio again at the right price.

The Living Room was great, generally the quietest place on this noisy ship.

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Hello all.

I'm an European Union citizen sailing from Miami next May.

Me, wife and daughter are under the Visa Waiver Program.

Do you think we might get those 2-3 hours when we arrive in Miami airport or after our Eastern Caribbean cruide in Miami port to go through Customs/Immigration?

We are very excited with this cruise but there is still time to search another one if we are supposed to get stuck all that time just for Immigration.

 

Thank you for your time.

 

Probably both. Or you might get lucky and avoid peak plane landing times, and/or maybe you will be in a suite and get priority immigration treatment.

 

Or as the poster earlier said

Again - too flippin bad!! Don't come here then.
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I found you have to be very careful not to nudge the shower soap and shampoo dispensers even very slightly or they fall off the wall and all the soap comes out.

 

We had a balcony cabin. Around day 10, Mrs Frog said "the shower gel isnt very foamy is it?" I sort of grunted. Then a couple of days later I said "You do realise the steward swapped around the shower gel and the shampoo/conditioner dont you" :D:D:D

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I'm really worried now. We are cruising in feb.

I am from the UK, have done many trips to the USA, so am well aware of the big lines to get into the country.

However will it be like this at every single port?? We clear customs gor america in orlando airport the day before the cruise.

 

Sent from my SM-G925F using Forums mobile app

 

As before. You might get lucky in Orlando, you might have a suite and skip the lines, or you might be the only boat in port when they are geared up with guards for for three or four boats.

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